martedì 1 febbraio 2011

il cavaliere inesistente

Italo Calvino outside the Einaudi publishing house in Torino

I've been gobbling up books lately, too quickly actually, driven by more a fury to read than to digest, so I decided to slow myself down by reading something in Italian. The book is I nostri antenati, our ancestors, an anthology of the three novellas by Italo Calvino, Il cavaliere inesistente, Il visconte dimezzato, and, the only one I've already read, Il barone rampante. So I'm in Il cavaliere inesistente right now, the story of a knight in Charlemagne's army who doesn't exist; his suit of armor is empty of any body, it contains only his mind, his spirit, maybe his soul? I think I have to finish the book to find this out.

Midway through the book, Agilulfo (he who doesn't exist), Rambaldo (a young and idealistic young man hoping for glory), and Gurdulù (the mad fool who has been assigned to Agilulfo as a page by Charlemagne--O bella! Questo suddito qui che c'è ma non sa d'esserci e quel mio paladino là che sa d'esserci e invece non c'è) set about the task of burying the bodies from the earlier battle. Each confronts a corpse and has his own reverie: Agilulfo thinks proudly and defiantly of the pains and disgust of having a body that can die, Rambaldo questions his fury for glory and thinks of his love...and Gurdulù:

Gurdulù trascina un morto e pensa: "Tu butti fuori certi peti più puzzolenti dei miei, cadavere. Non so perchè tutti ti compiangono. Cosa ti manca? Prima ti muovevi, ora il tuo movimento passa ai vermi che tu nutri. Crescevi unghie e capelli: ora colerai liquame che farà crescere più alte nel sole le erbe del prato. Diventerai erba, poi latte delle mucche che mangeranno l'erba, sangue di bambino che ha bevuto il latte, e così via. Vedi che sei più bravo a vivere tu di me, o cadavere?"

Gurdulù drags a dead body and thinks, "You're farting out worst stink than me, cadaver. I don't know why everyone pities you. What do you miss? Before you moved, now your movement passes to the worms that you nourish. You grew hair and fingernails: now you will melt to manure that will make the grass grow in the sun. You will become grass, then milk from the cows who will eat the grass, blood of the baby who drinks the milk, and so on. See how you are better than me at living, o cadaver?"

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